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Vitamin D Supplements (and Infant Drops) Should Start in Infancy

Updated on October 6, 2010

One of the vitamins that we have heard a lot about in the past few years is Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your bones by improving calcium flow in the body. It comes naturally from the sun but most of us don’t get enough direct sunlight anymore so we need supplements. And a new study indicates that those supplements aren’t just for adults but that we should actually start giving them to children as early as infancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending this for years but the new study indicates that it is more important than ever for parents to be aware of this issue.

More About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important vitamin for all people. It is best known for preventing problems related to bone density as you age. However, it also strengthens your immune system which can prevent a variety of illnesses and diseases. It is believed that Vitamin D might even prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes. A deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to a variety of ailments including asthma in children and mental decline in older adults.

The Study

A study was recently done which recommended that Vitamin D supplements be given to children starting when they are infants. Right now fewer than 13% of infants are receiving these supplements and the study says that just isn’t enough. Here are some of the stats, facts and findings published in the study:

·      The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 international units of Vitamin D per day for infants. Right now fewer than one half of all American infants are getting this dose. Somewhere between 5-37% of infants are getting enough Vitamin D; the rest are not getting enough. It used to be believed that infants only needed 200 international units of Vitamin D but that finding was changed in 2008.

·      Infants don’t get enough Vitamin D for a few reasons. For one thing, it is not recommended that infants be placed in direct sunlight and it is recommend that sunscreen be used on infants aged 6 months and older. This means that infants are getting Vitamin D from the sun. Additionally, many infants are breastfed which has many benefits but it means that they aren’t getting the Vitamin D that they might get if they were bottle fed. Plus, even bottled fed infants aren’t typically getting enough Vitamin D.

·      The situation has changed over time. Babies used to be exposed to more sunlight. This caused complications but it did have the benefit of giving them enough Vitamin D. That’s not the case anymore so we have to supplement what babies get naturally.

·      More than one third of mothers are vitamin D deficient themselves. Even women who take prenatal vitamins may be deficient in Vitamin D.

·      Doctors aren’t talking about this issue enough with their patients. Many pediatricians are failing to let their patients know about the importance of giving Vitamin D supplements to their infants. More education is recommended in this area.

Opposition to Infant Supplements

Although this study suggests that supplements be given to infants so that they get enough Vitamin D, there are people who disagree with its finding. Many people believe that it is not necessary to give supplements to infants. They believe that enough natural vitamins are provided in breast milk to keep their children healthy. However, many medical experts disagree. explains that children need vitamins that aren’t available in breast milk and names Vitamin D as a major supplement that is needed. Notably, your baby can safely consume up to 1000 international units of Vitamin D so even if your child is getting Vitamin D from other sources, it won’t harm the baby in any way to get more from the supplement.

Prevent Rickets

People who have mixed feelings about giving Vitamin D supplements to their infants should know that a lack of Vitamin D in infants can lead to the development of rickets. Rickets is a disorder leading to soft or weak bones. Problems related to rickets including pain, impaired growth, dental problems and deformation of the body. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a vitamin D supplement for infants in order to prevent rickets from occurring.

Vitamin D for Older Children

Vitamin D remains important to your child’s health as he or she gets older. However, most children can stop taking a Vitamin D supplement once they are approximately 12 months old. This is due primarily to the fact that the child can then be switched over from breast milk or formula to whole milk with Vitamin D. It is also due to the fact that the child can begin eating foods that are rich in Vitamin D. It’s important to make sure that the child continues to get enough Vitamin D as you wean him or her off of the vitamin supplements. If your child is not consuming milk with Vitamin D then he or she will need to keep taking the vitamin supplements.

What Do Infant Supplements Look Like?

Supplements for infants come in liquid form; ask your doctor about them. Typically, the doctor will recommend a liquid multivitamin that contains Vitamin D. Usually, the doctor recommends a triple vitamin of A, C and D. However, some doctors also recommend a vitamin that includes Vitamin B. This latter vitamin tends to have a stronger taste so it may be more difficult to get the baby to take this vitamin.


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